What it is: Wearable computer maker Jawbone has announced they’re shifting away from consumer products to dedicated health products.
Before the iPhone arrived, Blackberry, Nokia, and even Microsoft dominated the smartphone market. When the iPhone appeared, all the smartphone leaders faded away until only the iPhone and Android (which copied iOS) survived. Today, nearly every smartphone is either an iPhone or an Android phone.
Before the iPad arrived, multiple companies tried selling tablets. Microsoft tried peddling their Tablet PC concept where a laptop folded its screen across the keyboard, creating a heavy, bulky tablet that was too cumbersome to use as a tablet. Even worse, there was little software dedicated for the Tablet PC, which meant most people simply used Tablet PCs as an ordinary laptop. To make matters worse, the Tablet PC cost more than an ordinary laptop, which meant there was little reason to buy a Tablet PC.
Other companies tried marketing tablets such as JooJoo and Hewlett-Packard, but as soon as the iPad arrived, all of those tablet rivals fell apart. The same pattern is now repeating itself in the wearable computer market.
Before the Apple Watch arrived, Jawbone, Pebble, Fitbit, and other companies made fitness bands. Even Microsoft introduced the Microsoft Band to track health and fitness. Then the Apple Watch arrived and proved it was more than just a fitness band. Instead, it was a fitness band plus an iPhone accessory, plus an Apple Pay device. The Apple Watch is essentially a computer on your wrist that can also perform as a fitness band.
Given a choice between choosing a dedicated fitness band (for less cost) or an Apple Watch (for more cost), many people are opting for the more versatile but more expensive Apple Watch. In the meantime, the fitness band makers are either struggling to sell more fitness bands to a shrinking market, or trying to scale up and develop more versatile wearable computers, but without the benefit of a software platform like Xcode, Swift, and the WatchKit software framework.
Even Microsoft couldn’t compete against the Apple Watch and quietly killed the Microsoft Band. Pebble couldn’t compete and got acquired by Fitbit. Now with Jawbone abandoning the consumer wearable computer market, that leaves Fitbit alone to compete against the Apple Watch. While they may succeed on price and in the dedicated fitness band market, they have a huge uphill struggle to compete against the Apple Watch in the smart watch market.
Fitbit vs. the Apple Watch is much like watching Bambi vs. Godzilla. There’s little chance that Fitbit can compete directly against the Apple Watch and there’s also little chance that Fitbit can survive by targeting the fitness band market in the same way that dedicated word processor companies failed to compete against the more versatile PC that could run word processing software like Microsoft Word and WordPerfect. In short, the future of Fitbit looks like one of declining revenue and market share until they become an ever-shrinking threat against the Apple Watch.
That means the Apple Watch has pretty much defined the wearable computer market. Even Android Wear hans’t made much of a dent in the wearable computer market, mostly because Android smartphone and tablet manufacturers still don’t make much money selling Android devices, so why continue losing money trying to compete in the wearable computer market with Android Wear?
The slow demise of Jawbone is evidence that the wearable computer market is more than just a fitness band market, and that the Apple Watch is slowly taking over with no real competitors in sight. Expect Jawbone to disappear completely like Pebble. When the Apple Watch reigns supreme, you can expect even fewer rivals to compete in the wearable computer market just like you never see anyone trying to compete any more in the smartphone or tablet markets unless they’re trying to use Android.
The Apple Watch is now the wearable computer market. Expect more people to discover the benefits of the Apple Watch as Apple continues improving the Apple Watch with additional health sensors. Today if you want a wearable computer, your only real choice is the Apple Watch.